Friday, November 19, 2010

Hawk Mountain

Last night's night-ride was really good...

Climbing up to Cooper Gap, I realized that I didn't need my light at all. The past week's rains had stripped the trees and the moon, while not quite full, was more than enough to ride by. I've been caught out in the dark a bunch, but this was a new, surreal experience, like being stuck in the world framed by a black and white photo.

Earlier, I'd heard them warming up the Blackhawks across the street at Camp Merrill. Now they were heading north, coming back and looping south, over and over. They could be dropping troops at Garrett Farms, or maybe even Hawk Mountain. I was planning on climbing Hawk Mountain later, maybe I'd see them.

On the north face, the moon was high enough that I didn't the light there either. I did use it on the descent to Hightower though; better safe than sorry. From the road, I could see Merrill below, lit up like a football stadium. They were up to something down there.

At Puncheon I hung a right and climbed Hawk Mountain. I'm really digging these new tires. Now that I've got the pressure sorted out, they're like velcro. They only even thought about slipping once and that was standing, on gravel. At the clearing, I smelled a campfire to the left, but I couldn't see it. I switched on the light for the climb up to the peak, which was tricky, chunky, leafy and damp. I'd been thinking about riding some trails later, but apparently the leaves were still holding some rain. That could be a mess. Better stick to the roads. At the top, I saw a light, then a truck, then a Ranger banner, thus solving the campfire mystery. They had a checkpoint set up and they were talking and laughing. I wondered if they'd seen me. There could have been a guy on watch 3 feet away and I wouldn't have see him.

There are big concrete numbers on top of Hawk Mountain. 623:


There used to be a fire tower up there, straddling the numbers. I'm not sure what the purpose of the numbers are though. I'm sure they were put there to be seen from the air, but they're overgrown now, and I haven't seen big numbers on any other mountaintop. It's a mystery.

No longer climbing, I could tell it was getting cold. It was 50 at the car and all I needed were knee warmers, but it was now much later and I was much higher up. It's almost all downhill from there, and as you descend it gets warmer, but there's also the wind-chill. Which would win? I would soon find out.

I bombed off Hawk, rolled over to Winding Stair and bombed down that as well. My fork felt just right and I was a lot more confident in the tires. I was off the brakes but it didn't feel extraordinarily fast. It's hard to tell by yourself though. I need to follow Travis or my brother.

Ok, the wind chill was winning. I hung a left on 28-A and slipped around on leaves for a mile or two there before giving up and pulling out the jacket. Apparently I forgot to bring shoe covers though. Nooooo! Fortunately, there are a bunch of climbs on 28-1 back toward the church, including the one between 28-A and no-tell that I hate the 2nd most of all climbs in the entire forest. I passed a police car near Wahsega; the only car I saw all night.

Back at the car I had numb fingers, numb toes and my face was cramping. I turned on the ignition... 40 degrees. Come on! Not even freezing? That's just pitiful. Maybe it was freezing on top, but I was comfortable up there. Lame. Lame! Well, I was basically wearing summer gear except for the jacket and knee warmers. We'll see how fleece treats me next time. Cold or not, it was a great ride. I'll be in Louisiana all next week. Maybe I can get in a night ride down there too.

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